When I was a child, my parents would regularly say to me, “Children should be seen and not heard.” It did not seem odd to me and it was standard that children would have to be silent to allow grown-ups converse although, children could, of course, leave (I found out the hard way that swinging silently but thrillingly from the curtains in the room until eventually bringing down the pelmet was not an approved activity). It didn’t seem harsh or inhuman or anything other than completely normal. My husband was astonished when he heard this and it feeds further into his belief that I had the last Victorian childhood in Ireland. He, of course, was raised by hippies (well, relative hippies,I mean his father was a captain of industry but a very right-on one), so I was unsurprised. I checked with my bookclub and while I was not alone in hearing this expression brandished about, I was a definite minority. I feel that it was reasonably widespread but the unscientific evidence seems to be against me on this point. Gentle readers, did your parents say it to you?
My parents didn’t but there was very little discourse in our house so maybe it was an implicit rule. I am now wondering what the Swiss equivalent of a Victorian childhood might be. My husband was also raised by hippies, or parents that were keen to talk to their children and take an interest in their affairs. I am ridiculously envious of opportunities missed as a child.
Yes, they did, all the time. What’s more, I had to give up my seat on the bus to any standing adult, whereas these days, in Brussels at least, the reverse is expected. Will I never get my moment in the sun?
It definitely was said to me as a child but then I imagine I am considerably older than you!
Yes – but I was almost a Victorian child
I did hear the expression as a child, but only from my mother’s stories about her childhood. But by the 70’s in America, I’m pretty sure almost all parents were hippies, relatively speaking. If being a hippy is something that can be done relatively.
In my house it was unstated but clearly understood. It wasn’t that you weren’t allowed to talk or make noise, but not to enter into an adult conversation in a precocious way – which was regarded as very cheeky.
I had heard of the phrase, but it was considered to be something from the past (and I think we are almost exactly contemporaries). We did live in hippyish North London though
I certainly heard it but I’d say it was from my grandparents (with whom we lived) and other relatives apart from my parents. I would have viewed it as a slightly jokey exaggeration of a very real rule, that adults must be respected and not (overly) disturbed. My parents would have been very up to date on child-centred education and all that but there was a firm balance to be maintained (e.g. playing with Lego in main sitting room was usually permitted if reasonably quiet but ALL NOISE must cease during 6 o’clock news and certain other programmes).
Thank you all for replying! I’m taking that as a majority for and 100% awareness of the expression. Praxis, it will never be our turn, alas.